Hockey in the Desert – 1 January 28, 2016

IMG_1719Las Vegas got underway in the check-in line at our hotel. The guy in front of me was talking to Siri on his phone, dictating a text message.

Sex message. He didn’t seem to have seen his wife in a while and was looking forward to getting busy as soon as he checked in, going all graphic about what they would do. I wondered if the wife had just got in on a separate flight.

Um, naive. He was holding the phone half over his shoulder to speak into the mike, and I saw the return message pop up.

My name is Noelle.

New message: Yummy!

Yummy, he replied in a monotone. An ordinary looking business guy, quite fit, wedding ring on his left hand, escort on the other end of the line.

I felt an absurd disconnect, standing there with my hockey bag, stick and carry-on wheelie. We were in town for a hockey tournament, 14 members of a team based out of the North Toronto Arena. This was the 20th annual Women’s Hockey Classic, put on by California Hockey Productions. Three guaranteed games over three days, with play-offs on the fourth. Okay, with a nod to Vegas, we’d called ourselves the Beaver Dames. But still. Disconnect.

Reception called the Yummy guy and I checked in soon afterwards, but it didn’t stop. As part of the team headed for the elevators, we met a row of Playboy bunnies sitting demurely on banquettes. One leapt up, seeing the Canada tee-shirts a couple of us wore.

“I’m from Leaside! I’m from Leaside!” she cried. And kindly agreed to pose for a photo, at least after plumping her costume.

Three and a half days in Las Vegas–a brief escape from my Stuff project–all of it so bizarre it felt like a week. A few of us had been there before, and one of our forwards, Natalie, knew all the good restaurants. A couple of us even knew how to gamble, which I didn’t really; most didn’t. The first thing we’d seen on landing was a row of slot machines at the airport, and now we were staying at the Aria casino hotel on the Strip. Every trip to and from the elevators with our hockey bags took us past row after row of slot machines, and tables of blackjack or poker, every variation.

“You know,” a guy said one time, “just because you’re Canadians, you don’t have to carry hockey sticks everywhere you go.”

To be continued…